For the past week, fires have been ravaging northern California, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate, destroying thousands of structures, and tragically claiming dozens of lives.
The death toll from the northern California wildfires continue to rise. As of Sunday morning, the death toll has risen to 40, according to LA Times.
More than 15 fires have ravaged the state since October 8th. The fires have collectively burned more than 221,000 acres in northern California, and more than 5700 structures. These fires are among the deadliest fires in California’s history. Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in the affected counties.
Over 10,000 firefighters from California and other states have been battling several deadly fires, according to Dave Teter of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The agency also reported that over 2 million gallons of fire retardant have been dropped on the fires in an effort to contain them.
The fires began last week after a red flag warning in which an extreme drought was present with low humidity, paired with a high volume of dry vegetation from the hot summer. Those conditions, coupled with high winds, have helped the fires spread rapidly and inflict mass devastation in the area. Additionally, the fires began at night, catching residents off guard, leaving them with no warning.
“A fire starting after 10 o’clock at night, under 50-plus mph winds, under absolutely dry, dry fuel beds, every one of those fires had a fighting chance to get going long before our firefighters could even be able to get there. So they all grew into major fires very quickly,” said Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE.
The death toll has been climbing so rapidly, some news outlets have taken to Twitter to update the number. NBC News tweeted on Saturday morning that the death count had reached 35, but by Saturday evening, it climbed even higher to 38.
CAL FIRE is also using Twitter to provide updated information as they continue to fight the fires. As of Sunday morning, CAL FIRE reported updates on the three major fires:
- The Atlas fire in Napa and Solano counties has now burned 51,057 acres and is considered 56 percent contained.
- The Nuns fire in Sonoma County has now burned 47,106 acres and is considered 25 percent contained.
- The Tubbs fire in Napa and Sonoma counties has now burned 35,470 acres and is considered 60 percent contained.
Sheriff in Sonoma County said, as of Friday, 19 had died in the fires, and 235 were unaccounted for in the wake of the county’s fires. Search crews and detectives are in the field and detectives looking for missing people and trying to recover remains. The sheriff also said, “Of 1,485 total reports of missing persons since the fires began, 1,250 have been found safe,” he said late Friday, according to NBC News.
As thousands in Sonoma County have been forced to evacuate, a grassy field owned by the Sonoma Raceway has become has become a home to hundreds of evacuees this week. As of Friday, more than 100 trailers and recreational vehicles were parked there, in addition to tents housing campers.
As fires continue to ravage the state, and the death toll is continuing to rise, prayers are needed for all involved.